I was sure there ought to be a way to decipher the message, and I figured that the “crowd” would be my best bet, specifically finding women who had done office work during the 20th century, and as a result had learned to write shorthand. I first sent it to my Mom, who could only make out the second line. She wrote:
I can only read a little bit of it. The second line says “and I love you ______. I could only guess what the first line might mean. It’s been a long time since I had to read it. Also, it is easier to read one’s own than someone else’s.
I then shared it with the members of a listerv that I’m on, which includes some women of an older generation than mine. That worked! From my friend Loralie I learned that it says:
You are the very nicest man I’ve ever known
and I love you so much.
That’s hardly newsworthy stuff. Florence floridly expressed her love to Walter in her letters, in longhand. However I believe this moment written in shorthand is something a bit special because she admits to him that he’s the “nicest man” she has ever known. And because we know that Florence has been married and has had several previous serious romantic relationships, this shorthand moment seems to be the moment that tipped the scale in Walter’s favor–where he became the “very nicest” out of all of the others.
And if nothing else, it was a mystery that begged an answer–what did that mysterious bit of text mean? And now we know!